Risk Culture, Risk Framing and Nuclear Energy Dispute in Japan before and after the Fukushima Nuclear Accident

Friday, 20 July 2018: 17:50
Oral Presentation
Koichi HASEGAWA, Tohoku University, Sociology, Japan
The author will discuss nuclear energy dispute in Japan before and after the Fukushima Nuclear Accident with focusing on changing risk culture and risk framing. The accident revealed the failure of Japan’s risk culture and risk framing on nuclear energy, a chain of underestimations, no defense against tsunamis and the station blackout, the narrow evacuation zone, and ineffectiveness of safety regulations. Why the majority of people accepted the nuclear energy before the accident? What kind of social mechanism supported the proliferation of nuclear energy? The function of ‘nuclear village’ and the nuclear budget, limit of courts, and weak social watchdogs. After the accident, how the situation changed? Analyzing news clippings, documents and participant observations, we can find some continuities and discontinuities before and after the accident. The accident has clearly shown that there is no absolute safety and nuclear risks remain very high. The majority of people came to support decreasing of the plant and regard the central government unreliable. Citizens’ protests became drastically frequent. The focusing points of the dispute were shifted from risk of electricity shortage to risks of severe accidents in a quake-prone country, financial risk, the issues of handling spent nuclear fuel and potential nuclear deterrent. However, in Japan protesters did not yet succeed to find the effective political route of energy transition to a denuclearization. Growing political influences is still tough challenge due to the limits of organizational backgrounds and the narrow political opportunity structure. How anti-nuclear movements should be organized toward new directions, what the next step should be, and who should be their political partners? This is unclear. Upheavals of activism failed to bring the victory of national elections. Under the political backlash led by ethno-centrism and populism, Japan’s civil activism is facing at cross roads, still forwarding or declining.